After cooling off for a few weeks, it appears that trade chatter surrounding the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets veteran P.J. Tucker has begun to slowly pick back up (more on that below). The good news for the Cs, what was once perceived as a steep asking price for the hard-nosed three-and-D forward, now looks to have dropped in cost, per Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer.
“For weeks, the Rockets were messaging that they would accept either a first-rounder or three second-round picks, sources told B/R,” Fischer wrote. “But Tucker’s output has dropped significantly this season. He’s shooting only 31.4 percent from three, his worst mark since 2012-13, and he’s averaging only 4.6 rebounds one year after hauling in a career-high 6.6 per game.”
A Western Conference official appears to find the idea of Houston yielding a first-round pick in exchange for Tucker damn-near ludicrous, telling Bleacher Report the Rockets are “off their asking price.” This notion was backed by an NBA general manager who claimed “If they had a first for him now, he’d already be gone.”
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Tucker Could be a Bargain Get for Celtics
Sitting in 14th-place in the Western Conference and riding a 13-game losing streak, the Rockets have the look of a surefire seller at the deadline. Boston has been bombarded with trade rumors connecting them with above-average to near-star players ever since acquiring their $28.5 million traded player exception in the Gordon Hayward deal. However, the thought of adding a near-guaranteed contributor at a team-friendly price has its perks as well.
With a 2020-21 salary of just $7.9 million, Tucker –– who NBC Sports recently floated as a modestly priced trade addition –– is clearly within Boston’s budget. He’s a physical defensive presence that would be a welcomed addition to nearly any championship contending team –– The Celtics included.
Tucker’s Struggles & Impending Free Agency
That’s not to say Tucker doesn’t have his drawbacks. He will turn 36 years old in May and is set to be an unrestricted free agent following this season. The belief around the league is that the North Carolina native –– who reportedly turned down a sub-$10 million average annual salary earlier this season –– will be in search of a sizeable contract.
“No matter where he goes, he wants to get paid,” a Western Conference official told B/R.
It also doesn’t help that Tucker has seen his production take a hit following the departure of franchise-cornerstone, James Harden. He’s currently averaging just 4.6 rebounds and 4.4 points per game, the latter of which is his lowest average since 2006. Furthermore, he’s struggled from beyond the arc, hitting on just 31.4% of his three-point attempts, a 5.5% dip from his 36.9% average over the past four seasons.
Still, Tucker is a versatile bruiser who, in a small-ball lineup, could help Boston pose mismatch nightmares for opponents. While maybe not the full-blow defensive stalwart he once was, Tucker still possesses the ability to guard spots 2-5, which could prove invaluable come playoff time.
Clearly, other teams share a similar mentality, as four title-contenders; the Lakers, Nets, Bucks and Heat, have expressed interest in acquiring Tucker, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
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